Today, Maryanne Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, came to our church. I must confess, I did not have the proper attitude about her visit. I did want to hear her preach, but I was mainly gratified at the opportunity to make Quahog Popovers for the big feed the church put on between services. There is a reason for this subverting of the need to be of service to others to one's own ends. My usual readers will know that my husband can't eat shellfish ,and my lovely daughter-in-law isn't too fond of it. Quahogs are some kind of clam and hence off limits to Bob.. I just got frozen clams from the expensive fish place in Potomac, Also, popovers are a breakfast food. We don't have that many people over to breakfast anymore. (Read none.) So, one has to take one's opportunities where they occur. And, they seemed to be pretty popular. A couple of people mentioned them to me.
I had never made popovers before, and actually, don't remember eating them. I do have a very clear memory of being at my great aunts' and uncle's house on Long Island, aged 3. My mother and I had dressed in identical seersucker suits. This was possibly the only time in my life that this had ever happened, so I was very excited. However, my glee didn't last because a popover exploded on my mother's suit, and she had to go change. So much for popovers.
Being a popover novice, I figured I should practice before inflicting my wares on the church congregation. Saturday morning, I wasn't scheduled to go riding until 2:00 so on Friday night I got out The Joy of Cooking to read up on popovers and make plain ones. The best piece of advice Mrs. Joy had was to make sure all the ingredients were at room temperature. I carefully got out the milk and eggs and put them on the counter to warm up. Another important piece of advice was not to overfill the muffin tins. Fill them three-quarter full.
Joy's popovers were a snap. Mix, pour, bake. She does have some fancy stuff with the oven where the baker starts out at 450 degrees Fahrenheit and cuts the temperature back to 350 after twenty minutes.The NYTHC omits this. It is also important to grease your muffin tins as thoroughly as possible. I did not buy fancy cast iron popover muffin tins, because this might be the only time in my life I was going to make popovers. Standard muffin tins work just fine. If you have teflon coated muffin tins, they work better than anything else.
Even though these popovers are emphatically not gluten free, I ate three of them. Yum, yum, good.
The next morning, I packed my Whole Foods bag with all the implements and ingredients needed to make popovers at church. Since I spent 19 years of my life as a teacher, cooking at school, this was not difficult.
The scene in the kitchen was somewhat fraught. There was a huge collection of finger food stuffs on the big stainless steel table in the middle of the room. Lou, the head of the hospitality committee was dressed in his best bib and tucker, carving up a ham. Florence, the head of the altar guild, was setting the buffet table, and Larry, the sexton, was everywhere, doing everything. I had already been informed by my husband that Florence had asked me to "pour."
"Pour what?" I asked dimly. I love Florence, and one should accommodate her where ever possible, but I like to know what my job is. The tea, child, the tea.
Florence had trotted out the silver tea set, a relic of the church's past, when it was a bastion of upper class worship. Silver is one hell of a conductor of heat, so I guess she figured it would be better for one person to burn themselves than having everyone who came up for a cuppa to singe their palms and possibly drop the teapot on the tile floor. Also it's more classy to have some one pouring the tea.
I didn't get to the popovers until the 9:00 worshipers had fed from the buffet table, and the bishop had spoken at the forum between services on the need of the Episcopal church to get its act together and decide what it means to be an Episcopalian. I appreciated that myself because what being an Episcopalian meant to me was kind of like being a Catholic, except without all the stupid, anti-women rules that the Catholic Church has embraced over the years.
When the 11:15 worshipers trucked into the sanctuary, I greased muffin tins, broke eggs, stirred in flour, measured clam juice and dumped in chopped clams. Everything was in the oven, and I was able to be in my seat to hear the Gospel and the Bishop. Thirty-five minutes later, out they came, beautiful, golden little orbs that clung to the muffin tins and had to be pried out with a knife. Larry told me to put them in a wicker basket which I lined with paper towels, having failed to bring a clean linen towel. They looked lovely, and people seemed to like them. (By the way, I doubled the recipe and made 23 popovers.) So if you live in clamland, or particularly like clams, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature and go to it.
6 medium size quahogs (or a can of clams, or a package of frozen clams)
1/4 cup water
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon oil (don't use olive)
1/2 cup milk
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place the quahogs and water in a pan and steam until quahogs open, about five minutes. Remove meat and chop. Reserve clam liquid.
3. Place the flour and pepper in a bowl. Add the eggs, oil, milk and one-half cup of the reserved quahog liquid. Beat until smooth.
4. Grease six deep muffin tins very well and head in oven three minutes. Stir chopped quahogs, (clams) into batter and pour into m uffin tins. Bake thirty-five to forty minutes. Makes six or thereabouts.